Liverpool record a famous and somewhat unexpected away victory by dismantling Tottenham Hotspur on their way to a 5-0 mauling.
Despite high-scoring, back-to-back home victories, Liverpool went into an historically challenging trip to White Hart Lane inconvenienced by the absence of Steven Gerrard.
The inspirational skipper, out until the New Year with a hamstring strain, was replaced in the starting eleven by Lucas Leiva, who had spent the past two matches watching on from the substitutes bench.
Some early nervousness at the back gave little indication of what was to follow as Simon Mignolet required some nifty footwork to evade Roberto Soldado before slicing a challenging Martin Skrtel back pass out for a throw in.
Mohamed Sakho was also guilty of giving away possession too easily while Jon Flanagan was involved in a muted penalty shout when Paulinho went down whilst tussling to get on the end of a free kick.
At the other end Philippe Coutinho did have a clear sight of goal but the No.10 shot weekly at Hugo Lloris after Etienne Capoue’s header had fallen straight to Luis Suarez.
The Reds started to grow into the game around the 10 minute mark with Raheem Sterling looking to have the better of Kyle Naughton down the Liverpool right on a regular basis.
A series of corners put further pressure on Spurs before Suarez, stand-in skipper for the day, showed great composure to sidestep the sliding Capoue and tuck home for the opening goal.
The Uruguayan had also been involved in the goal’s build-up by setting Jordan Henderson away before capitalising when the midfielder showed great tenacity to win possession back after Michael Dawson had initially done well to intercept.
A couple of minutes later and Suarez could easily have doubled the lead, after being threaded through by Sterling, but Lloris spread himself well to deny a player who now had more Premier League goals for the season than the whole Spurs team combined.
The hosts were still having their own moments of attacking intent in what was an exciting encounter; Nacer Chadli over hitting a cross after a good dribble and Soldado heading over.
Approaching the half hour mark Liverpool twice went close to extending their lead in quick succession.
A Coutinho volley into the ground bounced up and struck the crossbar before Glen Johnson thumped the rebound marginally over.
At the other end Chadli could have equalised but the unmarked winger headed a corner from Lewis Holtby, on for the injured Sandro, over.
Suarez then had another great chance to deservedly extend Liverpool’s lead after Lloris misjudged an advance from goal aimed at cutting out a long punt forward from Skrtel.
The French international managed to recover his position and save however after Suarez delayed shooting first time on his weaker left side.
With half-time approaching Soldado and Holtby both had efforts at goal but it was Liverpool who finally scored again.
Henderson saw his initial shot blocked after a beautiful Coutinho layoff, but the England international remained composed to fire home seconds later after Lloris had kept out the first follow up from Suarez.
The Merseysiders almost undid all their good work when Sakho mishit a cross-field pass but Soldado was rightly adjudged to have fouled Mignolet before tucking home.
The Spaniard was the first to have a chance in the second half but fired over from a tight angle two minutes after the restart.
Spurs should have been punished shortly afterwards but Sakho somehow managed to strike the post with a close-range header, when scoring looked easier, following a fantastic Sterling cross.
The hectic tempo continued as Soldado was similarly wasteful with another opportunity after Mignolet failed to punch a deep cross fully clear.
On the hour mark the former Valencia man was involved in another penalty shout following a quick free kick. Jonathan Moss was unmoved though with Soldado appearing to impede Skrtel as much as the Slovak did him.
Spurs were briefly in the ascendancy at this point but that was soon undone when Paulinho received a straight red card; the Brazilian’s foot was high and caught Suarez squarely in the chest but on another day it could easily have been just a booking.
Suarez could have made the game safe in the 70th minute but surprisingly his first touch was poor and it forced him wide, allowing Lloris to narrow his angles at the near post.
Space was aplenty now for the men in red as they refused to rest on their laurels and continued to press and harry their opponents.
With 15 minutes remaining the third finally arrived and it was via an unlikely source.
Coutinho’s dinked cross was sweetly finished on the half volley, via the underside of the bar, by an advancing Jon Flanagan – much to the delight of the full-back and his team mates.
With more composure Rodgers’ men could have quickly made the score line even more emphatic but a number of openings were undone by a poor final pass or touch.
Suarez made no mistake in the 84th minute though, latching onto substitute Luis Alberto‘s flicked pass and delivering an exquisite lob over Lloris.
The ex-Ajax man turned provider in the final minute, slotting through for Sterling to tuck home for a deserved goal.
Spurs had long since given up by this stage and the referee duly put them out of their misery by blowing the final whistle.
Even when Tottenham had a full quota of players we were still the better side, bossing proceedings for long periods and cutting the hosts open at will. Tellingly Spurs had no shots on target in the whole game and they totally lost the midfield battle where Lucas, Henderson and Joe Allen showed great intensity throughout. It was a great team performance and although Andre Villas-Boas’ men were way below par, the display would have been enough to win most meetings. Suarez was brilliant as always but there were a number of other notable individual performances. Flanagan was great defensively against the dangerous Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker but also got forward regularly and impressively. Elsewhere, Henderson was tireless in midfield and showed some moments of real quality with his passing and bursts forward. Sterling provided a constant threat down the flanks and produced by far his best showing of the season, perhaps of the entire calendar year. Crucially this result proves that we can function successfully without Gerrard and hopefully the players can show it was not just a one off in the coming weeks. Victory against Cardiff City next Saturday lunchtime will see us take top spot in the standings, at least for a couple of days – something that few would have foreseen when the season started.
Jon Flanagan – Most supporters still regard the 20-year-old Scouser as little more than a dependable stop gap while Jose Enrique is on the sidelines and until a new left-back can be purchased. In the past couple of games however, the youngster, who is primarily a right-back, has showed that he could just be developing into a player who can build a successful career at Anfield after all. Defensively secure, Flanagan has become more confident in his succession of games and is now even showing greater willingness and potency going forward.
Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan, Lucas (Alberto 79′), Allen, Henderson, Coutinho (Moses 90′), Sterling, Suarez.
Unused subs: Jones, Toure, Agger, Kelly, Aspas.
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